Tag Archives: life

the truth will set you free.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

These words took on new meaning for me during the past month. In the midst of loss, I celebrated life.

The day after my uncle died, I was supposed to attend a birthday party for a dear friend of mine. I had gone back and forth throughout the day, not sure if I was up to being in a room full of people and not confident that I could hold myself together for the event. Puffy eyes and all, I pulled myself together and showed up. There were some tears, there were some hugs, but most of all, there was love. The room was filled with people who gathered to honor the beauty of life lived together. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when people shared stories of how they met the honored guest and what she meant to them. It was a timely reminder that what matters most is that we communicate our love to others in a way that can be understood and felt, not simply assuming that they know how we feel about them.

Later that week, my brother made the trek to Oklahoma to help me celebrate the big 3-0. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect – no one knows my relationship with and love for Unkie better than Dave. We reminisced and laughed and grieved and did things that we know Unkie would want us to do. It was a joy to spend time with him – and a comfort. I lucked out in the big brother department, for sure.

One of my favorite moments of Dave’s visit was when I introduced him to some of my dearest Oklahoma friends. It meant so much to me to have so many of the people I care about most together in the same room. I can’t imagine what this time would have been like without the friends who have mourned with me and celebrated with me, seemingly simultaneously. My heart is still broken, but it is full. So many things bring memories of Unkie to my mind each day. I try to turn them into grateful thoughts, but sometimes all I can think of is how much I wish I could hug him again. The ones we love never truly leave us.

I’m learning more and more each day the beauty of a life lived with others, for better or worse. For so long, I’ve struggled with the self-imposed pressure of appearing that I have it all together and that I can handle whatever comes my way. And that’s exhausting. Our vulnerability is one of the most precious things we can share with others, and it can be terrifying to offer it without knowing how it will be received or responded to. But the only way to cultivate genuine relationships is to be honest, even when it’s not pretty. Especially when it’s not pretty. We’re all just trying to make it through the day. Sometimes we just need a little grace, a kind word, and a reassuring hug to remind us that we’re not in this alone. Thank goodness for that.

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to everything, there is a season.

I know I’m not alone in loving this time of year. The return of football and pumpkin everything, fragrant warm beverages and cozy sweaters, riding boots and blue jeans – it’s the most delightful season. As the warmth of summer gives way to cooler days (In Oklahoma it’s 80 instead of 100…not quite as lovely as a Northeast fall, but I’ll take it!), I’m savoring what makes this season so lovely as we settle into my favorite quarter of the year.

We know that seasons are simply that – a season. A finite period of time. Seasons do not last forever; they flow seamlessly into the next, marking time or a mood or a sequence of events. Our lives are full of seasons – joy and growth, sadness and struggle, excitement and possibility, uncertainty and fear. With each passing season, we learn more about who we are and what we are capable of, who we can count on and what brings us fulfillment.

Some of the biggest changes in my life have occurred during the fall: moving from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, getting married, moving from Pensacola to Oklahoma, beginning this whole deployment thing, just to name a few. I take some comfort in the fact that as my life went through these drastic shifts, the universe was reminding me that change was all around me. I wasn’t alone. Change brings hope and opportunity, change can be good.

As I weathered some of these transitions, I didn’t always feel fully myself or fully connected. There were plenty of moments I longed for what used to be, what was familiar and comfortable. Over the years I’ve learned to make the most of where I am, to invest fully into the people and the community where I find myself, to accept the things I cannot change. I’ve learned that sometimes relationships only last for a season or two, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful or meaningful. I’ve learned that even though we can try to prepare ourselves for the unexpected, we can find ourselves in a season we didn’t see coming. Change isn’t always welcome, but that doesn’t keep it from happening.

A tree may lose its leaves in the fall, but you know what? It will grow new ones in the spring. Although they may appear to be the same as the ones from years prior, they are not. At its core, the tree is constant, but there is always change in its leaves. And the same holds true for us. There may be deeply rooted values and attributes that make up our core, but as the seasons change, we change. Our schedules, our priorities, our hopes, our challenges, our community, and our attitudes all impact the season we find ourselves in. Whether we find ourselves at peace with our circumstances or shaking our fists at the universe, one thing is for certain: this too shall pass.

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Three years ago today, Charlie and I wrapped up our roadtrip to Oklahoma. He was a little leery of it at first, but his eyes don’t look so spooked anymore.

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little things.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” Frank Lloyd Wright

It’s taken me almost thirty years, but I’ve finally started putting conscious effort into doing the little things I’ve always known I should do. Floss my teeth. Wash my face before bed. Take that mascara off, too. Moisturize. Take a multivitamin. Learn how to say no when Netflix asks if I want to keep watching a show. Nothing difficult or revolutionary. Repetition of these small habits nurture discipline – and hopefully pretty skin when I’m 50.

Perhaps it has come with age or maybe it’s a side effect of deployment life, but I’m realizing more and more that a life of purpose is more satisfying to me than a life of plenty – and I don’t just mean in the material sense. During the past several months, I’ve been more cognizant of how I spend my time, my energy, and my emotions. In these quiet days, I’ve learned to refocus my priorities, to savor the simple moments, to listen and observe more, and to realize just how much unnecessary noise fills our days.

There seems to be a natural narrowing as I get older – cultivating the good habits and healthy relationships, shedding the excess and learning to say goodbye to things and people that aren’t helping me grow. There’s a freedom in knowing who I am and what I hope for – and putting less emphasis on achieving other people’s expectations of me. What I consume – words, food, conversations, music – has a great impact on who I am, and frankly, life’s too short to be overwhelmed by the cacophony that competes for our attention. I want to fill my days with as much good and beauty as I can. And I’ll take all the puppy snuggles I can get.

This season has also reminded me how blessed and fortunate I truly am. Many of life’s frustrations and difficulties seem so trivial when I think of Ben and what he is going through. It’s not so much that deployment is a trump card – it just reminds you of what really matters in life and what’s worth your energy and emotion.

At the end of the day, I just want to love others well and make my corner of the world a little better. And remember to wash my face before bed.

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I’ll be there for you.

Last week, I had a conversation with a coworker about CDs. He mentioned that he and his wife were clearing out old boxes of albums – if the album was accounted for in their digitally-stored library, the physical album was out the door. He jokingly said to me, “nobody actually buys CDs anymore, do they?” I sheepishly replied that I still do…and he proceeded to look at me like I was a crazy person. I’d like to point out that this person has children my age. Yep. 

For certain artists, I still insist on buying their album in tangible album form. I do love you, iTunes, but there’s just something the real thing. Over the years, I developed an inaugural cd-listening ritual: after peeling off that outer layer of film and removing the adhesive seal (and a chunk of my nail polish), I’d pop out the album and put it in my stereo system (remember those things?), settle in to read the liner notes and savor the album from start to finish.

Similarly, I did something last weekend that I haven’t done in ages: I burned a mix CD. Hello, 2005. My CD mixes were pretty legendary during my college years, but in the age of iPods and playlists and fancy phones, their frequency diminished. One thing I love about my mix CDs is that they represent a specific time period in my life, and when I listen to them, I’m reminded of the people I danced around my dorm room with, epic roadtrips, the things my heart wanted, the words that expressed my thoughts better than I ever could. These songs chosen reflect a larger story; the soundtrack of my life, perhaps. So cheesy. And unlike playlists, I don’t need to delete them off my phone when I need to make room for more pictures of Nim and Charlie. #truestory

…clearly I’m hanging onto something from yesteryear. Like many twenty- and thirty-somethings these days, I’ve been watching lots of Friends on Netflix during these cold winter days and it’s made me a bit nostalgic. Not only do I love the humor and the awesome 90s fashion, but the camaraderie and sense of belonging that is shared among the characters is such a beautiful, enviable thing. How great would it be to have your best friends across the hall? Heck, I can barely get my neighbors to make eye contact and say hello.

Ben and I always joke with each other about being old souls. It’s something I love about us, something I embrace and own wholeheartedly. Like many things in life, my mindset with technology is that it’s all about balance. Yes, it’s amazing and good and helpful…but to a point. I’m a firm believer that there need to be boundaries. The best things in life aren’t shared via WiFi or measured by likes and retweets and shares. There’s beauty in simplicity – something I’m savoring more and more each day. Now if I could just move all the people I love a little closer together, I’d be set.

Likely, it’s the lovable characters and the shenanigans they find themselves in, but could it also be the nostalgia? Maybe it’s the idea that the ’90s and early 2000s were a simpler time, filled with landlines, VCRs and mixed tapes. It was a time when you met with your friends at your go-to coffee shop to hear about the drama in their lives… because there was no GChat. It was a time when Ross could get stranded at a rest stop while everyone else went on a ski trip because cell phones weren’t a thing. There’s no end to the debacles our favorite friends found themselves in that wouldn’t be possible with today’s technology. In fact, how boring would the show have been if everyone just texted each other? [Brit + Co.]

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we’ll take a cup of kindness yet.

It’s that time of year when we all reflect and resolve and eat too many chocolates and drink a little too much wine. You’re doing it too, right? 

2014 was…something. There isn’t a singular word to describe it. Hard. Challenging. Unexpected. Beautiful. 

It was beautiful. It was beautiful because I’ve experienced abundant love and generosity. It was beautiful because I learned to embrace what’s beyond my comfort zone. It was beautiful because now I know more than ever that life is made great not by what you have, but who you share it with. It was beautiful because I learned that the human spirit is capable of so much more than I could ever imagine. It was beautiful because the darkness didn’t win.

2014 leaves me a little tired and a little scarred. But 2015 will find me stronger than ever before.

This coming year is guaranteed to be an adventure. At this point, I haven’t made grand plans and resolutions for the new year. I can’t really think beyond the weekend. Ben has been home for the past week, which has been the most perfect present. But he leaves on Sunday. And this will be the big goodbye. The last time I’ll see him before he goes to Afghanistan for the next 10+ months. I’m soaking up these last few days together and trying to just be present in the moment.

Happy New Year, friends. Wishing you health and happiness, love and peace. Cheers!

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she wore a yellow ribbon.

Last week on my way home from the dog park, while I was waiting for the stop light to change, I glanced over to the bank on the corner and the enormous U.S. flag they display. It was completely dark outside, and the flag was still on the pole, not illuminated, faintly visible in the night sky. (In case you need to brush up on your flag etiquette, here you go.) And suddenly I felt a surge of anger. Because, you know, that’s completely normal, right?

My thought process went a little something like this:  How disrespectful…don’t they know if they’re going to fly the flag at night, it should be properly illuminated? I should go tape a note to their door with a print-out of proper flag protocol…how rude. Who am I, Michelle Tanner? *a couple quiet moments in my brain* …what the heck just happened? Why is this upsetting me? Slow your roll, Kristen.

It’s starting to happen. Preparing for deployment has turned me into a certifiably crazy person.

These strange, overly-sensitive reactions to things that in my brain somehow connect to the Navy and deployment and Ben became more frequent as his departure date approached. When I hear the national anthem, I get teary-eyed and a lump in my throat. When I see I person in uniform (there are tons at OU every Thursday – ROTC kids), I want to run up and hug them. (Don’t worry, I don’t. I haven’t involved other people in my crazy…yet.) Sappy songs about long-distance love are not allowed on my playlist. I would look at Ben’s socks on the floor and think to myself how I’m going to miss seeing his socks on the floor. This coming from a person who does not like clutter and thinks that everything has a place and should be in said place unless it is being used. Before he left this morning, Ben cradled Nimitz’s head in his hands and told him that he was going to be the man of the house now, it was his job to protect me. Yep, nearly lost it. I couldn’t say “good morning” to Ben today without getting all teary-eyed.

We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for this, and for that I am so grateful. But I don’t think it ever feels like you have enough time to prepare for deployment. The day comes, and you deal with it. That’s it. There really isn’t any other choice.

Today was the day. I dropped Ben off at the airport early this morning. I take comfort in knowing that he’ll be back for Christmas and will be somewhat accessible until he goes overseas in January, but it still broke my heart to watch him walk away. I came home to two very sweet (and still very sleepy) puppies. I’ve deep cleaned the house, done two loads of laundry, and other random chores all before 9:00 a.m. I guess that’s what a 4:30 wake up is good for – lots of morning energy. I’m determined to keep myself busy and not dwell on the fact that Ben is gone. The goodbye day is always the hardest.

So here we go…this deployment journey is officially underway. Let’s do this.

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where my demons hide.

There’s something special about the friends who don’t need to ask how you are to know how you are.  They can see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice, sense it in your silence.  It’s a privileged knowledge that takes time to build, a sacred space that not all can see.  Whether joy or pain, they know.

Our lives are made so much sweeter by having friends who rejoice with us when things are splendid and who mourn with us when things aren’t so lovely.  It’s an honor when someone trusts you enough to bear the inner layers of their soul and a courageous risk when you reveal yours to another.

But this is what we’re made for, right?  To be connected, to feel known, to feel loved and accepted despite our flaws and shortcomings.  The absence of love, connection, and belonging leads to suffering; the presence of these yield a beautiful sense of understanding, worth, and acceptance.

It’s the people in our life that matter most.  And I’m so thankful for the people in mine.

 

 

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